After a relatively barren time in 2011, Matt Parry started his second season of single-seater racing with a brace of podium finishes on his debut in the Dunlop InterSteps Championship at Oulton Park.

After posting some promising times throughout Friday’s official test day, the 18-year old AirAsia Caterham Driver Development Programme protégé went into the one-day meeting confident that his green-and-gold Fortec Motorsport entry would be a contender.

Two qualifying sessions confirmed Parry’s optimism, as he took second on the grid for both of the day’s race outings. Although the more experienced Matt Mason took top spot in both sessions, the #1 Fortec entry closed to within only 0.046secs of pole position for race two as Parry shaved half a second from his first session time.

“Qualifying confirmed that we had a quick car, and that the battle over the weekend was going to be with Matt Mason, so it was a little frustrating to come so close to taking top spot in the second session,” Parry admitted, “However, it was good to pick up so much time between sessions, and we knew we had a good car for the races.”

With qualifying and both races all taking place on the same day, there was little time to waste before the InterSteps field returned to the track. With the front row holding position as they got away, Parry settled into second place, keeping tabs on the leader without being able to find a way through on the narrow Oulton Park layout. The gap between them rose and fell with each lap, before Mason eventually established a cushion that he was able to carry to the chequered flag, but the two leaders’ fastest laps were just a tenth apart, giving Parry encouragement for race two.

“The Oulton Park is so tight that there is really only one line and that makes it difficult to overtake cleanly,” the youngster explained, “Although I could run with Mason, we were very evenly matched and there just wasn’t a chance to get by, particularly with another race to come later in the day. Still, it was a positive way to start the season, especially as we were able to pull well clear of the rest of the field.”

The Cardiff native had to wait until the end of the day before getting another crack at his rival, but the time was well spent as he formulated a strategy for snatching the lead. Determined not to sit behind Mason, Parry lined the polesitter up on the run to the opening corner, Old Hall. Despite holding the outside line, the Welshman was not to be denied and, even as Mason edged him towards the edge of the track, kept his foot on the accelerator. In a move reminiscent of

Sebastian Vettel’s on Fernando Alonso at the 2011 Italian Grand Prix, Parry’s bravery proved decisive as he emerged ahead through Cascades.

The Fortec driver continued to lead through the next five laps, extending his lead over Mason to more than a second before a moment of inexperience led to him being repassed by the #14 at Lodge corner. As Parry recovered from the minor mistake, Mason made good on his escape, opening out a gap that could not be bridged, despite the pair continuing to post similar lap times.

“Of course, I’m disappointed to have had to settle for second place in both races, especially as I had the opportunity to win second time around,” Parry sighed, “I just clipped the kerb at Druids and unsettled the car, which allowed Mason to close in. I couldn’t see him in my mirrors and left too much of a gap into the next corner and that was all he needed. It was a mistake and one that I will certainly learn from.

“On the plus side, our pace was good all weekend, and I know that the Fortec car has the potential to win races. I was pleased to be able to pull off the move around the outside of Mason at the start of race two – apparently it gave the commentators something to get excited about! Now we move on to Donington Park, where I aim to go one better and be on the top step of the podium.”

After another official test session at Snetterton early next month, the Dunlop InterSteps season continues with its first triple-header event at Donington Park over the weekend of 21-22 April.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.